46 DIVISION CASUALTIES BURIED AT LONGIANO AND CANONICA IN EMILIA ROMAGNA
Eighth Army in Italy 1943-45: The Long Hard Slog by Richard Doherty (ISBN: 9781473822788 OPERATION OLIVE This was the code name given to the opening of hostilities on the Gothic Line, which began on 25 August1944. On the Adriatic coast was the Polish II Corps with 5th Kresowa Division in the front line and the 3rd Carpathian Division in reserve. To the left of the Poles was 1 Canadian Corps, which had I Canadian Infantry Division (with 21 British Tank Brigade under command) in the front line and 5 Canadian Armoured Division in reserve. For the opening phase the Corps' artillery was strengthened with the addition of 4 British Infantry Division's artillery. West of the Canadians was British V Corps with 46 British Infantry Division manning the right of the Corps front line and 4 Indian Infantry Division its left. In reserve were 56 London Infantry Division, 1 British Armoured Division, 7 Armoured Brigade and 25 British Tank Brigade.
By the end of September 8 Army had suffered 14,000 casualties. As a result, British battalions had to be reduced from four to three rifle companies due to a shortage of manpower. Facing the 8th Army the LXXVI Panzer Corps had suffered 16,000 casualties. The 8th Army paused to reorganise. On 2 October General Alexander re-opened the offensive. 8 Army was to attack north and parallel to the Bologna Rimini road - route 9 – the action being led by the Canadians and 5 Corps on the night of 6-7 October. 10 Indian Infantry Division opened the attack on Monte Farneto. In Richard Doherty's book '8th Army in Italy 1943-5: The Long Hard Slog' we read that: ..With weather conditions worsening, theMahrattas advanced in gale force winds and rain to assault Monte Farneto....Once again, there was the customary counter attack; the ferocity of this indicated the importance the Germans assigned to Monte Farneto. The Hampshire Brigade of 46 Division then crossed the Fiumicino to conform with the 10 Indian and extend the line...the Brigade attacked on the night of 7 October..Conditions proved difficult enough for the advance since heavy rain began falling at midnight; this caused problems with bridging and some pack mules drowned in the prevailing flood conditions. Not until dawn on the 9th was the Brigade able to consolidate on its objectives; 138 and 139 Brigades then passed through to continue the advance..."
The infantry brigades to which Doherty was referring were made up as follows 128 Infantry Brigade (Hampshire Brigade) 1/4 Hampshire Regiment - 2 Hampshire Regiment - 5 Hampshire Regiment 138 Infantry Brigade 6 Lincolnshire Regiment - 2/4 King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry -6 York and Lancaster Regiment 139 Infantry Brigade 2/5 Leicestershire Regiment – 5 Sherwood Foresters – 16 Durham Light Infantry
The men from 46 British Infantry Division and associated units who fell during this second offensive were buried in two temporary cemeteries, at Longiano, 659998, (forty-two men) and the the west of Canonica, 718965, (sixty-two men). The Longiano burials were transferred to Assisi on 10 October 1945 and those from Canonica two days later. It is not known why it was decided to transfer these solders 187 km from where they had been originally buried to their final resting place in Assisi War Cemetery.
The first death registered at Canonica occurred on 27 September, before the second offensive began, and was of Lance Corporal Edward Anthony Peter HART, 16 Durham Light Infantry. Another ten men from his regiment fell between 10 and 16 October. The Hampshire Brigade lost twenty-one of the men buried at Canonica, - 9 on the opening day of hostilities - of whom eleven belonged to 1/4 Hampshire Regiment. 6 Lincolnshire Regiment lost five men and 9 Manchester Regiment (machine-gun regiment) three. The last burials at Canonica were those of 2 men from Royal Army Service Corps who died on 20 October – Drivers Thomas HILL and Kenneth WHITE.
Twenty-two of the fallen buried at Longiano came from two regiments – eleven from 6 York and Lancaster Regiment and the same number from 5 Sherwood Foresters. 2/5 Leicestershire Regiment lost five men and 2/4 King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry three. The first burial at Longiano was that of Private Maurice WICKENDEN, 5 Hampshire Regiment, who died on 5 October just before the renewed opening of hostilities, and the last burials were those of three men from 5 Sherwood Foresters – Private Bertram Arthur PONSFORD, Corporal Maurice Stewart SMITHARD and Private Raymond THOUMINE. Men from 2 Royal Horse Artillery were to be found in both cemeteries , two at Canonica and one at Longiano. The same applies to 46 Recce Regiment, with one casualty in each. Four men from 58 Anti-Tank Regiment were buried at Canonica, and one from 60 Anti-Tank Regiment, Gunner Claude Reginald MERRIFIELD, at Longiano. Russell SMITH, 272 Field Company, Royal Engineers, was buried at Canonica and Frederick WATSON , 270 Field Company, Royal Engineers, at Longiano.